It’s turning into a surprisingly good time to be a fan of classic Saturday morning cartoons — well, for comic book fans, at least. Hot on the heels of the news that Oni Press will launch a new comic book line based on the NacelleVerse — an upcoming multimedia property from the Nacelle Company teaming properties like Biker Mice from Mars, Sectaurs, and more — comes an announcement from indie publisher Dynamite Entertainment that it is partnering with Warner Bros. Discovery for comic books based on series including Thundercats, The Flintstones, Space Ghost, and many more. (Yes, that includes the Powerpuff Girls).
It’s far from the first time that these properties have shown up in comics, of course; DC — which is, of course, owned by Warner Bros. Discovery — has a long history with many of them, up to and including a critically acclaimed, award-nominated reimagining of The Flintstones from writer Mark Russell and artist Steve Pugh a few years back, and had reasonably lengthy runs for both Space Ghost and Powerpuff Girls when both were active Cartoon Network series. Thundercats, which will be Dynamite’s first title from this new deal, has been published by both Marvel and DC since the series 1980s heyday. In terms of whether or not these shows will work in comics, that’s a question that’s already been answered pretty definitively in the positive.
What’s particularly interesting about this deal is that it happened at all; as noted above, DC has been the traditional publisher for these characters and series for decades at this point for the simple reason that they’re all owned by the same parent company. It made sense for DC to publish comics based on WB-owned shows because any licensing fees were being kept in the family, so to speak. (If they even existed.) That we’re seeing Dynamite pick up these books feels like it might be a signpost to the future, at least when it comes to where Warner Bros. Discovery is going as a whole.
Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav has been relatively open about his feelings that WBD could make more revenue shopping its back catalog out to other outlets, and to some extent, we’ve already seen what that looks like in terms of streaming: HBO shows are now on Netflix as well as Max, and there are all-new Batman cartoons debuting on Prime Video in the near future. (Very near future, in fact; Merry Little Batman is coming December 8.)
Now, we’re seeing that same approach applied to comics — which is where things might get interesting. None of the Warner Bros. properties named by Dynamite are DC properties (but they’re not all cartoons, either; Dynamite is teasing a Wizard of Oz comic; Warners owns the Judy Garland movie, even though the original book is in the public domain), but what happens if another publisher does want to publish a DC-owned property that DC isn’t using? I don’t mean Batman, obviously, but something far less likely to see print anytime soon from DC itself: Angel Love, for example, or Binky. (Google is your friend.)
Before Dynamite’s NYCC announcement, it would have seemed unthinkable that anyone else could ever publish something like that, especially considering DC’s publishing program and its approach to the company’s back catalog. But now…? Well, even “unlikely” is still a significant change from “impossible,” let’s just put it that way. Marvel already licenses out its material and characters to outside publishers, with Penguin, Taschen, and Abrams ComicArts all running active Marvel publishing programs currently. Could we be about to see DC doing the same…?